Getting into Private School

Here we cover the private school admissions process from the application to the interview. Get information on how admissions works, when and how to apply, and tips on preparing for testing and interviewing. Learn what you should look for on a school visit and questions you should ask during the interview.
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Many Roman Catholic high schools don't use the SSAT or ISSE admissions tests as part of their admissions requirements. For instance, Roman Catholic high schools in the Archdioceses of New York and Brooklyn/Queens administer the Test for Admission Into Catholic High Schools or  TACHS.
 
Elsewhere in the country you will find the Cooperative Admissions Exam (COOP) or the High School Placement Test (HSPT). What the admissions staff are looking for is readiness for high school level academic work. The tests are generally given in the late fall of grade 8.
 
Diocesan and archdiocesan high schools generally admit most of their new students from elementary schools within their own dioceses. (A diocese is a legal territory and entity under the control and jurisdiction of a bishop.) Consequently, most of the students have been educated to certain standards which are well-known within that diocese. Standardized tests are not necessary in order to develop a student profile. That profile is already well-known. as well, the teachers and principals of the diocesan elementary schools themselves are known quantities. That being the case, it is simply a matter for the admissions office to identify any marginal performers and decide on those applicants. The testing per se has already ben done.

 

Many people find the admissions process to private schools intimidating, confusing, complicated and, perhaps, a tad invasive. "Why do they have to know so much about me?" is the question which keeps popping up as you peruse all those admissions materials.

The truth is that admission is more than test scores and a faultless transcript. The school wants to get to know you as much as possible. Who are you? What subjects do you like? What sports do you enjoy? What is your favorite pastime? Behind all those recommendations and test scores is a real person with dreams, aspirations and hopes. A private school wants to encourage you and help you be all you can be.
 
What Are They Looking for?
The admissions staff are not looking for geniuses or stars. If you have good math grades and  think that you might like to explore math in depth, a private school can make that happen. Maybe you want to play hockey on a really good team. Again, the right private school can make that happen. But you will not find the right school for you unless you open up and lay all your dreams and aspirations on the table. Once you do that, the admissions staff can begin to explore all the possibilities with you.

One of the great things about private schools is that they encourage excellence and a well-rounded person. You don't have to be afraid of what others will think if your passion is solving . . .read more
You have spent many hours selecting schools online. Some of the schools' web sites were so good that you almost felt as though you had explored every corner of their campuses. You watched videos of classes, sports and extracurricular activities. So, what more could you possibly need to know about the schools? After all you have identified three or four to which you want to apply. That's the next step in the process, right? Not exactly. The next step is for you to visit those three or four schools on your short list. You really have to set foot on each campus. By the way the schools will insist on meeting you and your child in person as well.

Here is an example of what I am talking about. This excellent video presents Shattuck-St. Mary's School in Faribault, Minnesota and its fine campus and programs in the best light possible. But you still need to visit the school and truly experience all it has to offer.
 
 
Visit schools on your short list
 
Don't skip visiting the schools on your short list. Why? Because you need to inspect the campuses yourself. It's like buying a house or renting an apartment. A web site and a video will not show you what you really need to see. Professionally done photo galleries and videos are no substitute for experiencing the school. All of those videos and photos are produced and positioned to present the school precisely as it . . .read more
Once you have agreed on a short list of schools to visit, you need to call and make arrangements for The Interview. Typically this will take place while you visit the school. What is involved?
 
Almost every school wants to meet candidates for admission. The admissions test scores, teacher, principal and extracurricular recommendations as well as the applicant's essay and parent's statement all offer a snap shot of an applicant at a particular time and place. The interview on the other hand gives the admissions staff a chance to fill in the missing elements and to assess the applicant's character.
 
Schedule well in advance.

Be sure to schedule your interview and school visit well in advance. This is not something you do on a Friday afternoon expecting to turn up the next day. There are only so many hours in a day with a correspondingly limited number of interview appointments. It is important to get your interview out of the way by the end of November if at all possible. Most applications need to be completed by the deadline, and that includes the interview.
 
What does the interview entail?

How long is the interview? Usually about 20 minutes. What will the admissions staff ask? The person who interviews you wants to get to know you. He already has an idea of who you are and what you have accomplished. He will be looking to  see what kind of a person you, how serious you are about your school work, what . . .read more
Standardized testing is part of most private schools' admissions requirements. The two most commonly used independent school tests are the SSAT or Secondary School Admission Test and the ISEE or Independent School Entrance Examination.
 
Many parents and students focus too much on standardized test scores. While test scores are important, they are only one of many benchmarks which an admissions committee will review.
 
What is being tested?

What are schools looking for? Basically, schools want to assess language and mathematics skills. Reading comprehension, vocabulary, reasoning, mathematical concepts and problems and more are the substance of most standardized tests.
 
When can you take the test?

SSAT and ISEE are offered several times a year in many locations nationwide. For registration deadlines, fees and other details consult their sites. You can register in a variety of ways incuding online, by telephone, via mail and by fax. If you need assistance paying the examination fees, there are fee waiver programs available.
 
Can you practice for the test?

All the common admissions tests have spawned a wide range of test preparation solutions. SSAT and ISEE have excellent, in-depth guides on their sites which give sample questions and much more. But the plain truth is that there is no point cramming for a standardized test. Become familiar with the testing format and the type of questions asked. Apart from that, do the best you can!
 
Test Preparation Materials
                      
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Getting into Private School

How Admissions Works

The private school admissions process can be competitive. Explore the process, compile your profile and submit your application with help from our tips and tools. Explore the challenges of getting into private school and the most common mistakes made during the admission process.

Applications

An in depth look at the private school application process. From teacher recommendations to the acceptance letter, we'll explore some of the most crucial aspects of applying to private school. Learn more about when and how to apply, why the deadlines are important and what to do when your child is accepted.

Test Preparation

Standardized tests are a large part of the admission process at many private schools. Here you'll find information on the most commonly used exams and how to prepare for them. Explore the tests, what the scores mean, and how the schools will use them.

School Visits and Interviews

School visits and interviews are an integral part of applying to private school. Learn why it's important to visit and what to do if that is not possible. Explore school visit options like open houses and shadowing. Get valuable tips on a successful interview and learn what questions you should be asking.